At least 12 arrested after Whatsapp rumor sparks lynching of 5

The incident took place in Dhule's tribal Rainpada hamlet

Twenty-three people have been arrested after five men were locked in a room and beaten to death in Maharashtra's Dhule on Sunday, over rumours that they were kidnappers out to get children.

The Centre conveyed its disapproval and said that platforms like WhatsApp "cannot evade accountability and responsibility" when miscreants "resort to provocative messages which lead to spread of violence", according to a statement issued by the ministry.

Villagers pounced on the men when one of them tried to speak to a child at a weekly market, Rajkumar said.

"Five were killed in the mob fury", police were quoted as saying.

Two policemen were also injured in the incident, he added. Another 17 suspects were still on the run, they added.

Police also imposed a curfew in the village and have deployed auxiliary forces, but the area remains on edge, the BBC reports.

So far this year, false messages about child abductors on WhatsApp have helped to trigger mass beatings of more than a dozen people in India - at least three of whom have died.

Indian TV channels also reported that most homes were locked and lanes deserted in the village on Monday as most villagers fled to escape a police crackdown.

The attacks have also spanned the sub-continent, from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where a 55-year-old woman was killed in early May after giving candies to children, to northeastern Assam, where two men were killed after stopping to ask for directions in June, to western Gujarat, where a 45-year-old female beggar was killed last week.

The warning to WhatsApp comes in the wake of a spate of incidents involving lynching of innocent people because of certain "fake and motivated" messages being circulated on the widely used messaging app.

In the interim, local authorities have attempted to tackle the issue themselves.

Reacting to this news, WhatsApp responded to the Government of India's letter on rumours spread via the app and said, "Like the Government of India, we're horrified by these bad acts of violence and wanted to respond quickly to the very important issues you have raised". "I appeal everybody not to believe in such posts that are circulated on social media", he said.

Last week a "rumour buster" official tasked with alerting the public to such hoaxes was lynched by a mob in the remote northeastern state of Tripura.

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